I hope everyone enjoyed the Opening Night game tonight. I know a lot of people who aren't fans of the media favoritism that the Red Sox and Yankees get kind of hate the rivalry, but in my opinion tonight's game was pretty representative of every Red Sox-Yankees game. They almost always seem to be back-and-forth games, and you can never really tell who is going to win, and I think that kind of tension is really what makes a slow-paced game like baseball exciting. It was also great to see the new guys on both sides contribute in their first game with their new team. I think a back-and-forth game like tonight's game is a perfect Opening Day game, aside from the fact that you had to listen to Joe Morgan talk for 4 hours. But that's a whole other blog topic.
On another note, I figured I'd go out on a limb and make my predictions for who would win each division and each Wild Card with some short explanations. Remember these are just predictions, and essentially who I think is the most likely to win their respective division/wild card, the way baseball is, this kind of thing is very difficult to predict with any kind of accuracy. Almost any team has a chance of making the post season (obviously with a few exceptions), so don't get mad if I leave your team out.
AL East: New York Yankees
I think the resources they have, as well as the team they already have in place, especially their line-up, will once again carry them to the post season. Adding Javier Vazquez, if he can perform like he did in the NL, may actually have strengthened their already formidable rotation.
AL Central: Minnesota Twins
Losing Joe Nathan has caused them to not be as much of a favorite as they were, but they have an extremely underrated line-up. a 3-4-5 of Mauer, Morneau, Kubel is just as devastating as what the Yankees have to offer in my opinion, and I didn't even mention Michael Cuddyer. Their rotation, while not overwhelming, is solid enough to excel in the AL Central, and even either Scott Baker or Francisco Liriano can step up, it could be an impressive rotation.
AL West: Texas Rangers
Shocking that I didn't pick the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? I am a little too, but this division is pretty hard to predict. The Mariners have great pitching and defense, but far too many question marks in their line-up. They probably won't hit more than 125 home runs this year, which is amazingly low. Cliff Lee's injury also worries me. The Angels have the opposite problem, with really shallow pitching and a solid line-up. The Rangers have a devastating line-up, without even accounting for a likely improvement this year from Josh Hamilton and new addition Vladimir Guerrero, and they have solid enough pitching to win this division. In other words, they are the most well-rounded team in the division.
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox
I might be a little biased here, but I think the Red Sox will once again win the AL Wild Card. They have a good line-up that probably won't score as much as the line-up last year did, but they won't have as much of a slip in Runs Scored as some people would suggest. They will still be in the top 5 in Runs Scored come season's end. They also, in my opinion, have the best rotation in baseball as long as everyone can pitch up to their level and stay healthy.
Honorable Mention: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays could very well surprise everyone and win either the AL East or the Wild Card. I am pretty comfortable saying that their line-up will score more runs than everyone in the AL that isn't the Yankees, and if their pitching can avoid underachieving like it did last year, they are very much in the race.
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
I'm kind of taking the easy way out, but that's what this is supposed to be about, I'm picking the teams that have the highest chance of winning their division from my point of view. The Phillies have the best line-up in the National League, and if the Yankees removed their DH and put a pitcher in his spot, it would be an extremely close contest. The Phillies are starting the season with half of their rotation on the DL, but they will be back quickly enough that I don't think it's a huge deal. If they all come back fairly healthy, they'll be fine. The addition of Roy Halladay is impressive, and their pitching after him isn't AMAZING, but their line-up is so good that it doesn't matter.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
Carpenter, Wainwright, Pujols, Holliday. Done.
NL West: Colorado Rockies
I'm officially on the Rockies bandwagon. I think they have a line-up that could quite possibly finish second in Runs Scored to the Phillies, or even surpass them if they have a ridiculous enough year. Their 8th hitter, Clint Barmes, hit over 20 Home Runs last year, which is ridiculous. I think their pitching is underrated and that Ubaldo Jimenez is a potential Cy Young candidate int he NL.
NL Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
I had the Atlanta Braves slated to win the Wild Card before they even decided to start Jason Heyward this year, who looks like he could be an amazing player. I'm also a little skeptical that he will contribute amazingly right away, but if he does they are even more of a lock for the playoffs. They have a better line-up this year than last year, and they have just as deep of pitching as they did last year with Hudson stepping in to replace Vazquez.
Anyway, that's all I have for now. Hope everyone enjoys the first week of baseball!